Family Business

Integrating in-laws into the family business


4 min




Watch the Woodmans, a third generation business family in the food industry operating Woodman\'s of Essex based in Massachusetts, USA, with employees in the 5th generation, share their experience of welcoming in-laws in the family business and offering them the opportunity to take on leadership roles.


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Maureen Woodman
In this business it was not hard for me to be an in-law, because the in-laws had been already imbedded in the history of Generation One. So that would be Bessie and that would be her sisters. And then in Generation Two, Virginia was an only child, that is Dexter’s wife, her mother passed away when she was a baby, an infant so she was raised by these 12 women the Bucci family, who were excellent cooks and so they all came into the business so in a funny way I look at them as they were in-laws. And then when Dexter had his 7 children, his son-in-law John, his son-in-law Pete, his son-in-law Tommy, his daughter-in-law Nancy, his daughter-in-law Shelley, his daughter-in-law Rhonda, and his daughter-in-law Maureen, all got a job in the family business.

Stephen Woodman
My wife is involved in ... View More the business although she right now she is more part time in the business than full time. We started dating and when she met me she started working here when she was 15 for a summer job. My dad kind of took her under his wing and would listen to her, and different things that he had talked to her about and throw ideas off him, she would bounce them, and whatever, and he listened. And so some of the things in terms of expanding the business and bringing new ideas into the business were things that my wife had suggested to my dad, and he did that with all the in-laws. He listened to what was out there and if they were good ideas and he thought they would work he would bring them and incorporate them and bring them along.

Maureen Woodman
Dexter and Ginny always had family dinner even in the height of the summer. I might have been 19-20 years old and we are sitting around the table and they actually said they were going to design this upstairs bar where we are sitting right now, it is called the Top Deck. Dad, Dexter said, “All right who is going to run it, who is going to do it?” All the sisters were saying, “I can not do it. I do not have time, who is going to do it?” So I said, “I will do it.” My brother-in-law John built the bar with our brother-in-law Pete. Stevie my other brother-in-law came up he gave me a quick lesson, and that was the beginning of the Top Deck. In the catering portion of the business, it was the same thing, when I came into the business it was literally a one page menu. My sister-in-law, which is Stevie’s wife, Rhonda got really heavy into the marketing, and she tried to figure out how could we get better. So she spent all her time on the advertising and the Yellow Pages, and making it get better and then she literally said to me, “All right, go! Go!” So in 1997 we did one of our first full weddings, china, crystal, linens. And, 10 years before that if I ever said we were going to do a wedding on a full serve they looked at me like I was crazy. So we just took it and we ran with it and that really has been a complete upscale is where our catering has come since the late ‘90s to now. I feel my history in the business has always been, “We can do it! What do you want to do? We can do it.”